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Considering A Bee Garden

Considering A Bee Garden

By Lisa Millette
Originally printed in the Turtle Tree 2015 Catalog

At Turtle Tree, we are interested in educating the gardening community so that they can grow and care for the earth more effectively and confidently. This spirit of education also encourages the sharing of new (or perhaps long forgotten) tips and experiences fostering open dialogues among gardeners, growers, seed savers, and food enthusiasts.

Black_eyed_susan
Black Eyed Susan

In recent years, supporting the honey bee and providing food sources for our local pollinators has emerged as a topic of importance. We’ve come to realize how much weight rides on the back of our pollinators to get food on our tables. Thus, a common question we’ve been fielding is: “What are good bee plants?”

When planting out an area for bees, it is important to have a diversity of plants that bloom throughout the seasons – some early blooms, mid-season, and late season flowers. Plant swatches of the same type of plant so they can be easily found. Make decisions on what to plant based on how much time and cultivation you would like to put into your pollinator garden.

Bees enjoy many perennial herbs such as Bergamot (Bee balm), hyssop, Echinacea Purpurea (coneflower), sage, chives, and lavender – these plants will come back year after year and provide you and your bees with culinary delight! Crocus, columbine, and lilac, are early blooming perennial flowers loved by bees, while cup plant and sedum bloom in the fall, providing late season nourishment.

Anise hyssop, borage, dill, basil, phacelia, buckwheat, cosmos, foxglove, dahlias and sunflowers make great annual herb and flowers for your bee garden. Buckwheat and phacelia are especially wonderful to include as they are early bloomers and will reseed themselves.

Ever thought about growing your own apples or peaches? Flowering trees or shrubs such as fruit trees bloom in the spring producing much needed early season nutrition for bees.

pollinator garden pack

From squash and cucumber blossoms to tomato and onion flowers, many of the flowers vegetables produce are loved by bees and are necessary for fruit and seed production. Allow members of the brassica family such as arugula, broccoli, or mustard greens to bolt and flower in the fall as they will withstand the first frosts providing pollen long after other flowers have died.

Many wildflowers and “weeds” also produce blossoms that are food for our pollinating friends.  Chicory, black-eyed susans (Rudbeckia), cat mints (such as catnip), clovers, daisy, joe pye weed, goldenrod, and dandelions are just a few. Allowing these to flourish in your yard or at the fence lines of your garden will give the bees added reasons to visit your garden and provide habitat for other beneficial insects as well.

Open-pollinated seed sources are best for pollinator gardens as flowers from hybridized seed will not yield as much pollen. It may go without saying, and just in case: eliminate the use of pesticides, herbicides, or any harsh chemical that might poison bees.

So whether you keep your own bees or want to support native pollinators, add some flowers to your garden or yard this year! Even one container with one type of flowering plant may give that hungry worker bee with enough energy to complete her journey back to the hive.

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Finding Meaning in Garden Work

Finding Meaning in Garden Work

By Gregory Amoresano

Originally published in the Echo of Camphill Village, Copake, NY – 2015

The garden, like any other workplace, brings together a multitude of individuality. A multitude of individuality in the garden, like in any other workplace, brings a multitude of challenges. Among these challenges, however, there lay pivotal that of recognizing the commonality among the individuals. That is to say, to find one thing in each individual that is common among all other individuals. In the garden, as it must be in other workplaces, this common trait, in so far as I have observed, is the desire to contribute meaningfully to the work.

One might say, as I have heard it been said, that so and so is lazy or never wants to do this or that task in the garden. One could then argue that such attitudes toward work shows nothing of a desire to contribute. However, I say, and only because I have observed it in myself, that one holds such an attitude toward work not out of a lack in desire to contribute, but because one has yet to find the meaning in such tasks. From such an understanding, the group reveals itself as individualities: what I find meaningful in the work may not be found meaningful to the other.

In recognizing these individualities, while also understanding the common desire of each individual to contribute meaningfully, one reveals his or her true challenge. The true challenge for each individual, is not to ask: How do I get an individual, or even myself, to do this task that needs to be done? Rather, one must ask the question: How can I provide meaning for the individual, or myself, in the work that must be done? What becomes essential in asking the later question rather than the first, is that finding meaning in our work takes priority to simply doing the work.

What a great challenge we are presented with!

Of course, we can each recognize for ourselves those tasks which we have a lazy attitude towards. Here, we meet the challenge of finding or instilling meaning in the work for ourselves. What is an even greater task, however, is observing the same attitude in others. Further, helping another to find their own individual meaning in the work can be the greatest challenge of all.

How simple it would be if we each could drone about from one job to another like interchangeable parts! How short our search for the “right person for the job!” Yes, how wonderful it would be when we each would simply do. Yet, how boring! How lifeless our work would be without meaning pervading it! After all, as gardeners, is it not our vocation to bring life into the world?

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On Seed Work in Camphill Village

Seed Work in Camphill Village

Originally published in Edible Berkshires, Spring 2016

By Lisa Millette

Camphill Village

It is quiet at 8AM as I drive up to Turtle Tree seed shop, save the nervous scattering of chickens who stroll along the roads and yards of Camphill Village every morning.

Quickly, I pull together the day’s work, racing the clock to beat the arrival of the seed shop’s crew. Work officially begins at 9AM but a few often arrive 10-15 minutes early, and this morning is no different. Elizabeth speed-walks through the door at 8:45AM. She settles into her work station without stopping for breath as she informs me of Camphill Village’s weekend happenings, most importantly the number of VWs she spotted.

The seed shop is one of fifteen workshops at Camphill Village in Copake, NY, an intentional residential “community of people, some with special needs, who live and work together, caring for one another and the earth”. In addition to staff and villagers who reside on campus, there are also a group of employees, myself among them, who commute into the community to support the micro-economy of the village.

Rhythmic Structure

Monday through Friday at Camphill Village provide its residents and employees with the rhythmic structure that most American professionals are used to. All residents serve their community through a vocation of their choosing; one might cook the meals in one of the homes in the village, while someone else tends to the beef cattle and dairy cows, or takes care of the grounds, or supports cafe operations. Some community members spend decades in the woodshop or weavery. Others take advantage of the variety of vocations in the village and change jobs throughout their career. Camphill Village as a community sees equal value in every individual and supports community members in finding meaning in their work, and work that gives them meaning. Work deepens the respectful relationship amongst residents and employees, and provides all with the dignity that comes from knowledge that one’s work contributes to the greater practical production goals of the community.

Elizabeth, myself, and 28 others work here in Turtle Tree seed shop year round to grow, harvest, clean, and sell biodynamic vegetable, herb, and flower seeds. This chilly winter morning is no less productive than a summer’s morning. Winter tasks primarily revolve around seed cleaning. Seed cleaning is just as it sounds – we separate the chaff, dirt, and other stray particles from harvested seed to be tested, packed, and mailed to gardeners throughout the country. The first stages: threshing, blowing, and screening are done with machines. The final stages literally have the human touch of meticulous handwork.

Morning Teamwork

Satisfied that she has shared with me the most important Camphill news, Elizabeth finger knits while I continue to prepare the workstations. As 9 a.m. approaches, the rest of the crew filters in. Elizabeth sets aside her knitting and the team begins to work. A familiar hum fills the seed shop as the crew updates each other on their weekends and I circle the room, clarifying work instructions as needed. As every workshop is doing across the village, our crew reviews our schedule for the day. For Camphill Village, schedules include not only work goals, but also include what houses we will be dining at (residents and staff live in large extended family-style homes together, which also host crews for meals and social visits), and what evening activities will be held in the village (Camphill’s extracurricular life is enriched with sports, physical activities, choirs, ensembles, and more). Reviewing our schedule every day is part of Camphill’s rhythm, providing structure and a sense of familiarity and safety.

I may be biased, but I believe that Turtle Tree seed shop has the best crew in the village. Elizabeth is no exception. Today she is checking Schweizer Riesen Snow Peas. On winter mornings like today, her conscientiousness produces nearly perfect clean seeds. In warmer months, her ability to identify plants makes her a trusted weeder in the greenhouse and seed garden. In addition, she is able to balance socialization and focused work, even in the seed shop where the team works close together around the tables, a setting that could prove distracting for others.

At 10:30, we break for tea and biscuits

A break that recognizes the human brain’s capacity to focus for only 90-120 minutes at a time. Our minds reset for 10-20 minutes as we enjoy mint tea grown right in our community, then we return to our work until lunch, which today I enjoy at Arbutus House. At the conclusion of the meal, I excuse myself to clean the seed shop and set-up for afternoon work, seed cleaning from 2:30-5 pm with a short water break at 4 pm.

Our crew enjoys the camaraderie of seed cleaning, but we can’t help anticipating the return of warmer weather and seed garden work. Plants and soil highlight unique strengths of different crew members. Sherry revels in the clean swatches of garden just weeded. Greg loves the efficiency and physicality of push-hoeing the pathways. Arafat and Seemantini engage in philosophical conversations while hand weeding long rows or soil boxes in the greenhouse. Even Kelly, who despite choosing Turtle Tree work maintains a daily mantra that she is “not a gardener”, proudly stands back to admire the work she has accomplished. The garden rewards us with the year’s seed harvest not to mention the therapeutic benefits of working with the soil in the fresh air and sunshine. We reward each other with our authentic selves.

No one stands alone in the garden

We plant: someone digs holes, someone else lifts the starts from the soil tray, a couple others retrieve these starts and place them in the holes, someone else covers up the roots, and someone double checks the progress. We weed. We check each other’s seed work. We remind each other to drink water. When one of us forgets, another remembers each other’s appointments. When one of us cries or flushes in anger, another soothes. When one of us makes a mistake, we forgive. We understand that we remain human even as we engage in the rhythm of the work.

No work site is an island at Camphill Village

Just as members of our seed crew support each other, so too does each workshop crew support the other crews. Members of the vegetable garden workshop assist us with tractor work. In turn, our surplus vegetables in excess of what we need for seed production find their way to the garden shed. Dairy farmers join us in weeding or harvesting and we participate in milking. Our community and each of its work sites would struggle if community members worked in isolation. The community’s shared purpose is a connecting force that empowers residents to continue to try new things in their personal lives in the village, from building familial friendships with housemates and residential staff from around the world, attending a performance in the village hall, or taking a night class taught by a peer.

It’s 5PM and the work day is done. We review what we’ve accomplished and discuss our plans for the evening. Elizabeth punctually departs the shop, speed-walking to dinner. After the crew is gone, I take the compost out to the pile behind the shop. Then flicking off the lights, I lock the door and walk to my car. I’m exhausted but centered. Camphill Village Copake has that effect. The rhythm of our working community carries us home; a steady reminder that we are in the right place at the right time.

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Early April Lettuce and Spring Succession Sowing

Early April Lettuce and Spring Succession Sowing

Early April is the time we start thinking about sowing our first lettuces for outside transplanting. Despite the odd weather –we have had more snow here in the past few days than in January and February combined!– we are sowing and pricking out now in the hoop house for our spring outside-planted lettuces. In the greenhouses, lettuce season is already well under way, but for the first lettuces that will be planted outside in the garden, now is the time to start those seedlings. As the warmer weather comes in May, we love to load up our salad bowls with all the diverse colors, textures and shapes that our buttery, tender, crisp and sweet lettuces comes in!

Starting Seeds Indoors

Starting seeds indoors gives you a great jump on the season, but you need to pay attention to a few key things: Light, temperature and moisture.
Lettuces, like all indoor-sown starts, will need as much light as you can get for them. Sunny windows work just fine, but on any days that warm up above 50F, you can also put your lettuces outside for extra light. Grow lights help too, but outdoor light is the very best for plants, as long as the temperature is warm enough, and they are kept out of the wind. The more you can bring your seedlings outside, the stronger and less leggy they will be. Strong seedlings make healthy, strong plants. Lettuce seeds like some light when germinating, so only lightly cover them with soil, so you can still see the seeds.
Lettuces don’t want the hot temperatures that your eggplant and pepper seedlings love, so if you have a cooler, but still very sunny windowsill, that’s best.
Lettuces, like most seedlings, like good even moisture, but don’t like to be soggy, or they will become susceptible to diseases such as damping-off.

Sow in Trays

We generally sow our lettuce seedlings in lines in a tray, then “prick” them out (transplant them while they are still small) to give them more room in another tray or pot once they have germinated. If you prick them out before the first true leaves appear, the lettuce seedlings will be small, but the root system will be easier to handle, with just one single rootling. The best way to prick out lettuces is to gently lift and loosen the roots with a popsicle stick, pencil or wooden plant label, then gently take the seedlings, one by one, by the leaves and  transfer them to individual holes (these can be poked with a finger or a thick pen or a special tool called a dibber), trim the lettuce roots a little if needed so that they are no longer than 1 inch, then put them into the hole and tamp down the earth gently around the seedling, making sure that the soil is not covering the stem of the seedling. Lettuces like their roots to go straight down, so make sure you poke a good hole for the transplants, but you can also trim off the roots so that there is about 1 inch left on the seedling, as more roots will begin to grow right away. Handle delicate lettuce seedlings very gently by the leaves rather than the stems–lettuces will grow lots more leaves, but they only get one stem, so if it gets damaged, that sets back or can even kill the plant. We generally give each lettuce seedling about 2 inches of space on each side when we prick them out, so that they have some room to grow, but also so that we can fit plenty into a tray. When they’ve been pricked out, the lettuces will be happy in their trays, given adequate light, not too much warmth, and a steady but not soggy amount of moisture until the end of April or early May when it will be time to plant them outside in a well-prepared garden bed.
Lettuces don’t need a lot of compost, so if there is an area that got some last year, perhaps where you had grown squashes, tomatoes or cabbages, that spot should do just fine for lettuces without additional compost.

Consistent Lettuce Harvest

For a steady supply of lettuce throughout the spring, summer and fall, we plant many different varieties, some are best suited to the cool spring and fall months, some can stand up to more heat. Read the descriptions to make sure you’re getting what you need for your garden plans. Also, we sow in succession so that we always have fresh lettuce coming along, since when lettuce starts to get old and bolt (send up a stalk) it can get bitter. This means that about every three weeks, we sow some more lettuces. Lettuces grow fairly quickly, and since we like to salads nearly every day (sometimes twice!) we plan on sowing enough for a two to three week period. For a small household this may mean only a few lettuces, or for a larger garden that feeds many this may mean many. Think about your salad needs and wishes, and sow for those!

Nancy
Nancy Butterhead Lettuce
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Time to Sow Lettuces

Time to Sow Lettuces

Early April is the time we start thinking about sowing our first lettuces for outside transplanting. Despite the odd weather –we have had more snow here in the past few days than in January and February combined!– we are sowing and pricking out now in the hoop house for our spring outside-planted lettuces. In the greenhouses, lettuce season is already well under way, but for the first lettuces that will be planted outside in the garden, now is the time to start those seedlings. As the warmer weather comes in May, we love to load up our salad bowls with all the diverse colors, textures and shapes that our buttery, tender, crisp and sweet lettuces comes in!
Starting seeds indoors gives you a great jump on the season, but you need to pay attention to a few key things: Light, temperature and moisture.
Lettuces, like all indoor-sown starts, will need as much light as you can get for them. Sunny windows work just fine, but on any days that warm up above 50F, you can also put your lettuces outside for extra light. Grow lights help too, but outdoor light is the very best for plants, as long as the temperature is warm enough, and they are kept out of the wind. The more you can bring your seedlings outside, the stronger and less leggy they will be. Strong seedlings make healthy, strong plants. Lettuce seeds like some light when germinating, so only lightly cover them with soil, so you can still see the seeds.

Winter Density Lettuce growing outside in the spring
Lettuces don’t want the hot temperatures that your eggplant and pepper seedlings love, so if you have a cooler, but still very sunny windowsill, that’s best.
Lettuces, like most seedlings, like good even moisture, but don’t like to be soggy, or they will become susceptible to diseases such as damping-off.

Lettuce Seedling more than ready to be pricked out
We generally sow our lettuce seeds fairly thickly  (see the picture above) in lines in a tray, then “prick” them out (transplant them) to give them more room once they have germinated. To prick out lettuces, gently loosen the seedlings from underneath with a wooden seed label, the handle of a spoon or a Popsicle stick. Take one seedling at a time and move it to a new home in another container or flat. If you prick them out before the first true leaves appear, the lettuce seedlings will be small and a little fiddly to handle, but the root system will be easier to work with, as each seedling will only have one single rootling. Lettuces like their roots to go straight down, so make sure you poke a good hole for the transplants, but you can also trim off the roots so that there is about 1 inch left on the seedling, as more roots will begin to grow right away. Also, lettuces like to be planted with the soil at the same level as they have been growing–they don’t like to get soil too far up on their stems or between their leaves, as this can cause disease problems. Handle delicate lettuce seedlings very gently by the leaves rather than the stems–lettuces will grow lots more leaves, but they only get one stem, so if it gets damaged, that sets back or can even kill the plant. Gently but firmly tamp down the soil around each seedling as you plant it. We generally give each lettuce seedling about 2 inches of space on each side when we prick them out, so that they have some room to grow, but also so that we can fit plenty into a tray. When they’ve been pricked out, the lettuces will be happy in their trays, given adequate light, not too much warmth, and a steady but not soggy amount of moisture until the end of April or early May when it will be time to plant them outside in a well-prepared garden bed.
Lettuces don’t need a lot of compost, so if there is an area that got some last year, perhaps where you had grown squashes, tomatoes or cabbages, that spot should do just fine for lettuces without additional compost.
For a steady supply of lettuce throughout the spring, summer and fall, we plant many different varieties, some are best suited to the cool spring and fall months, some can stand up to more heat. Read the descriptions to make sure you’re getting what you need for your garden plans. Also, we sow in succession so that we always have fresh lettuce coming along, since when lettuce starts to get old and bolt (send up a stalk) it can get bitter. This means that about every three weeks, we sow some more lettuces. Lettuces grow fairly quickly, and since we like to salads nearly every day (sometimes twice!) we plan on sowing enough for a two to three week period. For a small household this may mean only a few lettuces, or for a larger garden that feeds many this may mean many. Think about your salad needs and wishes, and sow for those!

austrian green leaf
Austrian Frilly Green Leaf Lettuce, one of our earliest to head-up in the spring